SEOUL – Two teenagers in North Korea have been killed by firing squad for watching and selling movies from neighbouring South Korea.
The pair, both boys thought to be aged between 16 and 17, were shot on an airfield in front of terrified locals in the city of Hyesan, on the border with China, back in October – though news of their deaths only emerged last week.
A third boy of the same age was executed alongside them for murdering his stepmother, with locals told the crimes were ‘equally evil,’ according to a witness.
One of the locals, who witness the executions noted: “Hyesan residents gathered in groups at the runway.
“The authorities put the teen-aged students in front of the public, sentenced them to death, and immediately, shot them.”
Foreign media, particularly anything deemed to be ‘Western,’ is strictly prohibited in North Korea – which brainwashes its population to support the ruling regime.
Kim Jong-un views South Korea as an American puppet state, and is sensitive to any of its media crossing the border.
But despite strict controls, such items are often smuggled into the country on USB drives or SD cards – brought over the border from China and then bartered among North Koreans.
The ruling Communist regime in Pyongyang uses informants recruited from the general population in order to catch those selling the drives.
In the case of the two teenagers, one of these spies reported them for hawking thumb drives containing the programmes in the local marketplace.
Such executions are rare in North Korea but not unheard of, and are stereotypically used to terrify people into obedience when authorities are worried about rule-breaking.
North Korean youth caught watching foreign movies face being sent to a disciplinary labour centre, one source in Hyesan said.
A second offence means being sent to a correctional camp for five years along with their parents, as punishment for failing to discipline their children.
But anyone caught distributing or selling South Korean movies can face the death penalty, even if they are minors, the source added.
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